Las Vegas plans downtown revitalization, taking lessons from Detroit leaders

Despite the age difference and distance between Las Vegas, Nevada and Detroit, Michigan the cities have similar challenges, said Todd Kessler, chairman of the Downtown Vegas Alliance. The Great Recession battered both cities, which are trying to overcome reliance on single industries — automobiles and gaming — while transforming their downtown core.

Wealthy businessmen also have played pivotal roles in jump-starting the downtown makeovers. In Detroit, billionaire Dan Gilbert moved his Quicken Loans company downtown and has been busy buying scores of real estate. Gilbert, whose robust business portfolio includes the Cleveland Cavaliers, has invested more than $1.5 billion into downtown Detroit.

Similarly, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh spurred much economic activity in downtown Las Vegas when he moved the company’s headquarters there three years ago. His Downtown Project, a $350 million investment that includes real estate, helped rejuvenate East Fremont Street with new bars, restaurants and retail.

But the transformations are far from over in both cities. The Las Vegas City Council is expected to approve a new master plan for downtown on June 15, 2016.

On June 7, 2016, city officials, business leaders and residents of downtown Las Vegas listened to their Detroit peers talk about how revitalization is gaining ground in the Rust Belt.

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